Freedom/Privacy

George W Bush is a liberal, and other oddities

Why, yes, I am a Liberal

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.” Sir Winston Churchill.

Aside from a few odd social experiments, such as Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela, or Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe (identical except for the fact that Chavez can maintain his worker’s paradise through oil profits and Mugabe has nothing), Socialism has been proven an embarrassing failure that few wish to revive.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 we are all Capitalists of one sort or another. The difficulty now is over our philosophy of Liberty and of the best manner to bring it about.

The philosophy of Liberty can be (heavily) summarised as the belief in individual rights and the equality of opportunity. So far, so good. Now … how does that happen?

On the (let’s call it) Left are the Liberals who believe that human beings are either too foolish or corrupt to ensure equality of opportunity and that only a just government can ensure such a right. On the (okay, okay) Right are the Libertarians who believe that, while individuals are occasionally stupid and shortsighted, that is nothing in comparison to a government attempting to impose a right by force.

Liberals believe that governments, acting fairly and with the best interests of the majority, can bring about maximum equality of opportunity. Libertarians believe that individuals, acting fairly with others and with their own self-interest to guide them, will รขโ‚ฌโ€œ however accidentally – achieve the best possible outcome for the largest number of people.

The debate, ultimately, is over the size of a government and the level it intrudes into the interactions between others.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience,” said C. S. Lewis

Here’s the contradiction: libertarians are libertarian up to their own borders, then they become liberals; and liberals are liberals up to their borders, then they become libertarians.

Consider the following example:

President Thabo Mbeki is a big believer in the power of government to intervene to create equality of opportunity in South Africa. He has passed into law large-scale affirmative action policies, lending schemes whose sole qualification is race, and government will only do business with those who are considered “historically disadvantaged”. Yet he has no interest whatsoever in the sufferings of those just across our border in Zimbabwe, declaring that we have no right to even express an opinion over Zimbabwe since they are a sovereign state. More fancifully, he has left 15% of the population to deal entirely with the consequences of their own decisions that caused them to become HIV positive.

He is both a liberal and a libertarian; depending on the circumstances.

How often does this happen amongst other liberal or libertarian groups?

“A traffic jam is a collision between free enterprise and socialism. Free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can build roads and road capacity.” Andrew Galambos.

And he was right. Those jams of confusion are where contradictions come to rest. And those contradictions are concentrated at the border. The borders between your country and everyone else’s.

It seems astonishing that those who are most appalled by government behaviour at home wish their own government to intervene in the internal policies of others. It also seems that those most desirous of government intervention at home loathe the chance that their government’s may intervene in the policies of others.

This is not consistent.

The most obvious inconsistency is over Iraq …

Let’s start with US President George W Bush. Here’s a man who wants to reduce taxes and government intervention at home but has demolished the Iraqi government and replaced it with his own.

Opposing him are the Democrats and Liberals. People who want more government control of their own economy, greater regulation of business and of lifestyle yet disagree vehemently over the extension of such policies to others. They want to scrap NAFTA and veto the WTO.

George Bush has attempted to extend US values to a whole plethora of nations; from Iraq to Afghanistan, to Iran and North Korea. And he has increased the size, scale and might of government to do so. We have to take him on his word when he says this: he did this to bring about democracy. What higher liberal value can we have?

And the people that disagree declare that we have no right to intervene in the lives of others. That other countries are not our property and that our intervention is unjust. What higher libertarian value can we have?

Contradiction.

Inherent contradictions always result in chaos. Chaos in Iraq. Chaos in US politics. Chaos in Zimbabwe. Chaos at our borders.

Contradictions cannot be maintained for long in an orderly fashion. Not without massive expenditure and waste of resources. When the oil price turns Hugo Chavez will find out exactly what he has bought for Venezuela.

One can disagree over how effectively government can intervene to bring about equality of opportunity, and prevent force or fraud. But one must also choose a side and then remain consistent lest you be caught lying to yourself.

If you believe that only government has the ability and responsibility to intervene to ensure liberty then you must support that intervention no matter where it is to take place. The consequence of this is that the powers you give a government you support are still there for a newly-elected government you don’t.

If you believe that government has no place intervening in the freely made choices of others or to initiate force against others in order to change their minds then this you must also accept under all circumstances. The consequence of this is that you may find yourself doing business with nations who don’t believe in the same theories of Liberty that you do.

If you’re a Liberal be a Liberal; if you’re a Libertarian be a Libertarian. But don’t allow your own values to be contradicted at the border.

“I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” Aldous Huxley

28 replies »

  1. Gavin,

    This is probably the least coherent and most deliberately obtuse thing I’ve seen you submit yet. You have to get over this juvenile “Ooh, look at me, I’m the libertarian rebel” thing you have going, because it infects otherwise thoughtful pieces of work with knee-jerk contrarian drabble.

    George Bush’s design is neither liberal nor libertarian. It’s authoritarian and militaristic, plain and simple. It’s the marriage of the belief of unilateral domination over other interests by force with the suppression of individual liberties on the domestic front. It combines corporatism of the worst, most unregulated kind with a belief in the absolute supremacy of the leader in all things.

    To call it liberal OR libertarian does it a disservice to both, and I know you did it just to get hits and traffic. The world is too complex to boil down diversity of opinion into these simple boilerplate tropes.

  2. I’ve seen two democrats that are against NAFTA. TWO! Other than Kucinich and Edwards where are these anti-NAFTA/WTO hordes you speak of? Also just because Bush is not a conservative doesn’t make him a liberal, he is a authoritarian and fool.

  3. Socialism DOES work if it is controlled and within a Capitalist framework. You cannot have a fair, caring, productive and loving society without the left and right holding hands.

    I enjoyed the article (the quote at the start was good and so was the Philosophy of Liberty link).

    I like little governments…co-operating together…but wish to see an over arching World Government too. That way people everywhere could lobby on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe and the Military could get in there…and take Mugabe out.

  4. Gavin,

    Thanks for the link to the “philosophy of liberty” show. I’ll have students analyze and deconstruct it for the ENGL101 class I’m teaching this fall. Good opportunity for them to look at what argument without evidence is….

    There are inherent problems with what you claim about the US, however. Our Constitution’s Preamble calls for our government to address the needs/desires of the governed – to provide for the common defense, establish justice, and promote the general welfare, for instance. These are not as vague as you might think – the Constitution does a pretty fair job of delineating how these matters should be addressed.

    The problem with Bush is that he is, if anything, a conservative authoritarian who sees every problem as an opportunity for enrichment of private interests.

    In the clever little presentation you link to, there are three main elements – life, liberty, and property. Bush’s evil is that the only one of these he cares about is property. And to assure that property accrual occurs, he’s willing to use force and fraud in ANY and EVERY instance.

    He’s not a Liberal – he’s not a Libertarian conservative. He’s a greed driven plutocrat. Property and wealth are his only interests.

  5. I kind of have to agree with Martin, but perhaps not as harshly.

    I think you’ve squeezed a definition out of “libertarian” that you needed for the purposes of this article, but it’s pretty contrived.

  6. This analysis is at its best when it’s noting how certain contradictions emerge from certain assumptions about governance. It’s at its least compelling when trying to abstract the agents into only two camps. As I read your summary paragraph (#4), for instance, I simply don’t see myself anywhere, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who fails to fit the artificial dichotomy.

    At least use the Political Compass framework to get a little more nuance into the discussion. You and George Bush may both be to the right of center on economic questions, but the dramatic differences on the authoritarian scale are critically important.

  7. To imply that the likes of georgewbush is in any way or sense a “libertarian” is an affront to strict adherents of the ideology of the deepest and severist kind.

    To suggest that “…Here

  8. Oh, come now Martin. The most inflammatory post I’ve written was the one where I declared my dislike for Harry Potter. This will receive significantly less notice than that ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The problem one has with using a term like “liberal” is the vast number of meanings it has come to have. I can’t even say “I’m using it in the strict American sense” since I don’t get the feeling there is a strict definition there either. That said, I was meaning it in the following way:

    1. All political parties in stable democracies (including such diversity as the US, France, UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, etc) believe that individuals should be free to choose their own interests, career paths, hobbies, political choices, means of earning a living up until they impact with the freely made choices of others (individual liberty, economic freedom) – no matter whether they’re left or right wing [yell if you don’t agree]
    2. There are asymmetries in societies, within and between, that result in there being a class of people known as the poor, a class in the middle, and the rich at the other end; this makes the people (financially) lower down unhappy and they want something done about it. Political parties (and the people who support them) have different ideas about how to address these concerns within the framework of the liberty-driven state.
    3. Some political parties believe that the state can overcome class differences by requiring a redistribution of assets (usually property, in the form of cash through taxes, and – sometimes – the relocation of people in state employ). This may translate as an expansion of state involvement in the economy through state-run schools, hospitals, or health systems. I call this the Liberal doctrine (usually associated with the Democrats in the US, the Labour party in the UK, all of France’s political parties, and so on).
    4. Some political parties believe that business and free trade can overcome class differences through the efficient allocation of scarce resources to where they are most valued. This may translate into an agreement of free-trade policies between different nations, a privatisation of state-run hospitals and schools, a gladiatorial relationship with unions, and so on. I call this the Libertarian doctrine (usually associated with the Republicans in the US, Tories in the UK and no-one in France).
    5. Yes, of course this is a gross overstatement. The nature of politics in the countries listed in 1 is such that parties are only marginally distinguishable from each other. So my point is that the political doctrines are not – in practice – that far apart, no matter what they may actually say in public.

    I’ve stated my concerns with the theoretical framework of the Political Compass before. Simply put: it is contradictory to have economic liberty but social authoritarianism (how do you “force” free trade?); and it is just as contradictory to have economic redistribution that is entirely left to the free choices of individuals (the law may state that I “should” work for the good of others, but what if I don’t want to – who “makes” me? In “making” me you increase the scale and scope of authority.).

    In a simple example, take education: say you believe that the state should intervene in education to ensure that the poor get equal access to good schools; the state builds them, staffs them, and administers the testing systems; to ensure representation you have a board that monitors the schools as well as administers funding; it gets pretty large and costly pretty soon even though those costs aren’t passed on to the parents – so now you also have to collect more taxes from other parents who elect to send their kids to private schools; some of those parents resent paying tax for the benefit of others so now you need a larger Revenue service to ensure tax compliance … it goes on. So, no matter how non-authoritarian you may believe you are, a left-wing economic policy quickly collects a large government to ensure compliance with those redistributive policies.

    War

    There isn’t a single economist anywhere on the planet (at least, not ones who don’t dribble when they talk) who believes that war is good for an economy. It ALWAYS results in net loss (even if some companies – such as weapons sellers – make money in the short term). The US is not a military based economy (although, North Korea may well be) and so the net loss to airline companies, tourism, research, insurance companies and the like will exceed the income earned by those firms profiting from the Iraq war. Not least is the suffering of families depending on a breadwinner killed in action.

    It is possible that George W Bush is so thick that he is one of those people that believes that war is good. In which case why hasn’t he invaded both North Korea and Iran and Syria? All places he’s been rattling about?

    And how did he drag so many other countries into his Coalition of the Willing? Australia? Poland? The Netherlands? The UK? Are they also all run by people who think that war is good?

    Or did they really believe that they could bring about regime change and stabilise the Middle East as a Democratic flower.

    That they have been mindbogglingly short-sighted is beyond question; however, the premise of their engagement is still under discussion. But look at the result, rather than the philosophy: Iraq now has a semi-freely-elected semi-autonomous government paid for by the US; infrastructure projects (no matter how often they get blown up) have been paid for by the US; US troops keep the peace. This wasn’t a decision taken unilaterally by Bush, it has the agreement of Congress as well. The US isn’t a dictatorship. And a Democratic congress has voted for the “surge”.

    No less than imposing a state-supported form of education on an area of inner-city neglect filled with gangs, shootings, drugs and violence, the US government is imposing a state-supported form of democracy on Iraq.

    I am asking the question: if Republicans aren’t into imposing state-run schools, why are they into imposing state-run governments?

    That is the contradiction – between a supposed policy of non-intervention in the US economy and a policy of intervention outside it.

    And, if you believe that a contradiction cannot exist, then how far has the Republican machine created by Bush strayed from its origins and started intervening in the economy.

    As I stated at the end of my post. You may enjoy the idea of a government you support (such as the Democrats) intervening in your economy and society to achieve aims you agree with but then a precedent has been set and you may end up with a government that has the means to intervene in your society in ways you don’t agree with.

    When you set up a contradiction it can come back to bite you.

    Fine print: I’m simply using Bush as one example. I don’t regard my government as a dictatorship but they are certainly authoritarian. The more they intervene in our society (South Africa) the more government departments are created to administer these rules. It’s gotten that a significant amount of our economic growth is entirely dependent on government salaries. This is not sustainable. For an American audience I am attempting to write using symbols that are familiar. That said, I’m working on a piece that is more familiar to us Africans on the same theme. I am perfectly willing to accept criticism on my analysis and understanding of Bush, but I’m not comfortable with statements accusing Bush of: “unilateral domination over other interests by force with the suppression of individual liberties on the domestic front”. That does a disservice to those who do live in suppressive societies where opposition politicians are jailed and the army prevents all free speech.

    PS: Jim what argument without evidence is

  9. The fundamental conceit of this piece, and its greatest flaw, is the naive implication that the reality of sociopolitical and economic behaviors can be boiled down into simple aphoristic fact statements which the participants guilelessly provide to the author, who uncritically constructs and presents a tidy model for our perusal.
    Republicans are not libertarian in the least in the United States. They may advertise themselves as such but immediately upon election they become part of the redistributive system and pursue authoritarian or totalitarian aims. Democrats, by the way, are rarely socialist in terms Europeans would understand, but rather are those who manage or advertise themselves as throwing a bone to the shrinking organized labor constituency from time to time. Now they are in service to the entrenched interests of Wall Street (Rubin, anyone?), which is eating their own base by supporting the destruction of the well paid working class.
    Having witnessed the fall of Communism from the vantage point of Hungary I can tell you there are really only two kinds of people in any system, regardless of how it is labeled: those who can deliver favors and those who cannot. If a nation decides that it wants state sponsored welfare to provide a bottom past which only the most determined can fall, it can find ways to have that. Republicans are elected to grant favors to megacorporations; Democrats are elected to grant favors to very large corporations and sometimes unions, blacks, hispanics, the working poor sometimes, and so on.
    America, based on its actions and not its words, is a country that would rather have huge numbers of dead babies (as long as they are not aborted before they can be born into crushing poverty and disease) on its hands than cancel one weapons system, deactivate one military unit, let some other country build a pipeline or even reduce corporate subsidies for industrial agriculture and petroleum companies.
    Scandinavian state socialism, German socialism, British socialism, even Canadian socialism are facts despite the fall of Soviet socialism. Soviet socialism was in reality a continuation of the despotism of Russia’s past with different bling. South Africa could have socialism, or at least a bottom past which only the most determined could fall, if it taxed its primary resource producers sufficiently. But South Africans must be more or less satisfied with what they have, or at least aren’t agitating for more. Americans do not feel worthy to have even what little we have remaining after thirty years of Republican plundering, and I include Clinton’s eight years in that time because his policies were fundamentally those of the Republican “left,” the Rockefeller Republicans whose power was greater before the religious fanaticism overtook us in the 1980s. Americans have lost a lot as a whole under the Republicans, whose control of the media helps direct the blame at others while helping corporations regain moneys lost as “pensions” or “benefits” to employees by stealing them back and creating a climate where corporate theft is not only criminal but encouraged. How can Americans complain, asked Bush, when the economy is doing so well? Because the people who have been robbed aren’t feeling so great about the commander in thief mocking their suffering, perhaps.
    The misapprehension of financial liberty as being social or political liberty is a falsehood that is the basis of the cult of the unregulated market, which is itself a branch of the Cult of Friedman. Malaysia, China, Kuala Lumpur, and the Marianas Islands are all examples of financially liberated places wherein all other liberties are suppressed. The Mafia is the best example of unregulated capitalism run rampant with little internal and no external constraint. Libertarianism as it stands in America today is the selfishness of the adolescent who wants their allowance and to smoke some of their parent’s pot stash, and say can I borrow your car.
    After reading the final commentary by the author I’m convinced that the ultimate flaw here is that some people believe what they read in advertisements and even when the proof of falsehood stares them in the face they cannot accept that they have been duped-it is ego-wrecking to accept that they have been tricked. It is hard to explain the difference between rational and rationalized.

  10. What a stupid slanted article . Trying to equate socialism with dictators ( which is what he is doing ) is nonsense . If you want oppression just look at what happens when a country is under unbridled capitalism . The end result is that the most ruthless , greedy and callous eventually get control , hoarding wealth and subugating the population for use as worker units and canon fodder . How exactly is Robert Mugabe a socialist ? What is he sharing and how pray tell is he putting his peoples welfare first which is a socialist concept ? Why is it that when some rightwing propagandist is trying to bash or distort socialism they always ignore Sweden , Denmark , Germany , France etc which are democratic socialist states that also have thriving capitalism ?

  11. Oh for the love of Christ, yet another self-defined “guardian of freedom” seeking to define “liberal.”

    Of course, all these small government advocates are the first ones with their hands out should disaster befall their neighborhood or family. Until Bush, they lived with the benefit of effective and safe drugs, food that’s not poisoned, workplaces that operate safely, a transportation infrastructure that supports commerce — too many benefits from government to count in fact, benefits that the unchecked greed of laissiez faire capitalism would offer only to those who can afford them, much to the apparent glee of the economic Darwinists. Now, the big banks who sold mortgages to lousy credit risks are getting bailed out, meanwhile, people who go bankrupt because of a medical crisis have no opportunity for a judge to show leniency based on the circumstances.

    With the ascendancy of the Bush administration, so obviously incompetent or outright evil that even right wing pot smokers ridicule him, we’ve all experienced what happens when the governing detest the government. Crony capitalists with no experience fill critical positions and we have the Katrina disaster, food poisoning, pharmaceutical deaths, accelerated dependency on fossil fuels placing our national security at risk, perhaps the greatest transfer of taxpayer wealth to the private crony businesses in the history of civilization, and so many more self-fulfilling prophecies of ineffective and outright criminal government.

    The truth is, government is a necessary check on human greed. That’s not “liberal” that’s common sense.

  12. Jim C, trippen … and way on the other end Biff … we’re well beyond my original premise now, but … welcome.

    I was discussing contradictions, not problems with either state-intervention or -minimalism per se.

    Contradictions cannot exist for long without chaos occurring. A state that intervenes heavily in another but claims not to intervene in its own is lying, or conflicted. If George Bush insists on intervening aggressively in other nations then, eventually, he may choose to intervene decisively in his own. Martin, in particular, has written about how Bush is undermining US privacy rules – probably the clearest indication of trouble to come.

    But I go further pointing out the contradiction in my own country where dedicated to state intervention chooses not to intervene in two very clear areas. This poses questions as to the nature of their other interventions? How secure are they? i.e. in a question specific to South Africa – despite passing laws supposedly designed to ensure black ownership of the economy, how enforceable are those laws if anyone actually stood against them? And how sure are we that the ANC really cares about democracy?

    Contradictions cannot exist for long without conflict.

    Biff: That’s quite a tirade. I summarise: the parties aren’t that far apart they just support different sets of special interests. So we have a contradiction and no wonder politics is in poor shape in the US. I agree with you.

    Jim C: there is no country with unbridled capitalism that is a dictatorship; it can’t happen. And the examples of Socialism you mention (especially France and Germany) are in big trouble. They’ve saved up some terrible trauma for themselves and are starting to become aware of it. Hence elections of people on “reformist” platforms.

    Trippin: Don’t put words in my mouth. I’m entirely against bailouts. I’ve never asked for one and I won’t. Ever. Plus, so far (despite begging) no-one is offering banks bailouts just yet either. There’s no stopping people asking for handouts, though, and – if you elect a government in hoc to special interest groups – then there is a chance that those interest groups will get some help. Whether, as Biff points out, those interests are unions or oil companies or farmers.

    If you don’t like taxes going to special interest groups vote for less taxes. But you can’t have state-run enterprises without high taxes, and you can’t have high taxes, and an electorate used to paying them, without them being spent on special interest groups.

    This particular article has caused quite a bit of heat. So let me restate something else I’ve said before: all essays here, for me, are works in progress. Comments are part of the conversation to work towards a final conclusion. Questions about my premises allow me to formulate and work at my proposition in the same way a sculptor works at clay.

  13. Au contraire , perhaps you are familiar with fascist Italy ? That little experiment is the model that the corporate conservative free marketers would love to emulate . We were pretty damned close to the same result in the late 19th and early 20th century , you know the supposed ” golden era ” ? Golden for the top few and close to slave labor for everybody else . Please tell me where is this law of the jungle wonderland exists ? Every other 1st world country ( and many 2nd tier ) has some kind of universial health care and safety net to go with its capitalism plus rules to keep the corporatists from preying on the population like wolves on sheep . Also , are Germany and France in ” big trouble ” because they try to look out for the welfare of their population or is it other forces at work ? By the way , we’re not in such great shape either , mostly because of big business run amuck . I would also wager that few if any of the ” troubled ” countries you mention ( I notice you only picked two from the list ) would trade systems with us . Have you checked the efficiency of our for profit health system lately ? Or perhaps our for profit military procurement system ?

  14. By “our” I assume you mean US? I’m a South African and “ours” is a joke. The only health available is from the private sector. The government sector kills more than it saves.

    Any government’s buying services from private companies for the “benefit” of their people is not Capitalism. It just looks like capitalism. That’s a form of socialism. Only the freely made choices of organisations and individuals using property they earned themselves as a means of exchange can be considered free-market capitalism. Taxes spent on goods is not “free-market”.

    I use France and Germany as examples because I know more about them than I do Sweden or Denmark. Plus, both Sweden and Denmark are small nations whose GDP is distorted by dominant state-owned industries. France and Germany are struggling because their tax base is shrinking relative to the demands they are putting on it. A much worse situation than the coming retirement of US baby-boomers. A population cannot long outspend its capacity for productive wealth generation… i.e. you can’t spend more than you gain in taxes for long, and you can’t tax more than people actually earn.

    Fascist Italy an example of free-market capitalism? How? Any country with slaves in it is not a free-market economy.

    One thing I will agree with you about is that all countries are mixed economies to one extreme or another. Bits of it are free-market, bits of it are state regulated.

    And the result is:

  15. Perhaps you should take a second look at fascist Italy . The idea was to run the government as a corporate state . In 1935 a bunch of fine american industrialists were so enamored with the concept they tried to put together a military coup to overthrow FDR and democracy , so much for the free market . When you have unbridled capitalism it will always degenerate into dog eat dog until only the strongest most aggressive and usually unprincipled dogs are left . When that free for all is finished they then turn their attention to hoarding wealth and resources . The only way free market capitalism works is when it is well regulated to generate jobs , services and products for the citizenry , not when business is allowed to rob and pillage . I am not against free enterprise , I am anti aristocracy . I also believe that the purpose of government is to make sure its peoples best interests and welfare is protected . If the community can’t do that then all you have is a kingdom with haves and have nots , controled by an ever shrinking group of haves . I don’t know much about South Africa , but if the healthcare situation is that bad you could always move to France .

  16. Calling George W. Bush a liberal is not only a stretch, it is an absurdity. This article should be titled “George W. Bush is a liberal, and other falsities.”

    Taking Bush at his word about bringing democracy to Iraq and building an argument on it is utterly useless and takes away from your credibility. Also, how has Bush worked to reduce government intervention at home? Think lying about warrantless wiretaps, abuse of signing statements, disregard for FISA courts intended to protect Americans from an authoritarian ruler, etc.

  17. It sounds like you flunked out of GOVT 101 and SOCIAL STUDIES 101.

    Btw, there is no such thing as a “Libertarian”. If there was, the first thing that would come down would be stops signs because they were put up by (local) government.

    And as far Venezuela, of course you observed this first-hand on your last extensive trip there, right? Or did you? If look beyond the label of “Socialism” (your label) and you’ll find “populism” with a hatred of George Bush and an excess of Audis and BMWs. Of course Venezuela uses its resources like oil to benefit the population. Nationalizing the multinationals was the best thing in their country’s interest. Why would anyone provide a bunch of handouts to greedy corporations who feel their entitled to everyone else’s resources. For instance, you might look at the sweetheart deals the US govt gives oil companies and logging and govt lands here in the US if you want to see an example of corporate welfare instead of making them pay fair market prices.

    If you want to use the term “Socialism”, use it to describe something like the US corporate welfare state, propped up by endless tax breaks and subsidies, and letting corporations have exessive influence to write legislation favoring them.

    And don’t dare call the US system “Capitalism”. If corporations ever were forced to really compete, they’d go belly-up in no time.

    Good grief. I could write for this site with stuff like this.

    Btw, just to enlighten you, I thought you might find this interesting. The Venezuelan Economy in the Cha?vez Years.

    A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research looks at the Venezuelan economy during the last eight years and finds that it does not fit the mold of an “oil boom headed for a bust,” as is commonly believed.

    “There’s no obvious end in sight for Venezuela’s current economic expansion,” said economist Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and lead author of the paper “The Venezuelan Economy in the Ch

  18. Jim C, there are many forms of capitalism. Free-market capitalism (the type I espouse) requires that trade occur WITHOUT force or fraud. Fascist Italy required a lot of force and a lot of fraud.

    I’m not sure what you mean by anti-aristocracy but we’re probably in agreement here too. The “right” that a person has to prestige by nature of their position? I come back to Ayn Rand, “No person may be smaller than their money.” In other words, a person who attempts to rule an inheritance they are not worth will soon squander it (Hello Paris Hilton?).

    And, concluding Jim C, the primary purpose of government is to prevent force or fraud; both from within (between individuals and organisations within the state) and from without. If a government does that then you shouldn’t have the problems you fear.

    DomPierre, possibly you need to have a closer look at Venezuela yourself. A government that seizes the investments of others gains only the property but not the intellects that made those assets possible. Chavez has chased away all the people that know how to keep that oil production working. Shrinking production has met massive oil-price inflation so that there is an illusion of growth.

    It isn’t really happening. And, with all his new policies and programs, he’s saving up some nasty expenses for himself in the future.

    According to The Economist: “inflation is close to 20% and the official value of the currency is twice its black-market exchange rate” … “the Gini coefficient

  19. here is a quote for you. it is my own.
    Socialism comes down to caring about your fellow man
    Capitalism comes down to caring only about yourself.

    We saw with Enron what happens when you remove social responsiblity from the capitalist equation. We are seeing it happening all over again with the big oil companies. Ironically the same man has enabled both situations. I will leave it to you to do your homework and find out just who that man is. But I am sure you can guess on that front. We DO have social programs here you know.

  20. Ah yes, a Bushie defending Georgie and “capitalism”. This oughta be fun. And quoting The Economist to boot. Now I see the problem. I recommend some alternative press reading instead of what you’re quoting.

    As far as Venezuela, they had reached agreements with all oil companies except Exxon this earlier this year, and negotiations are ongoing with them. Besides, those “resources” are all on public lands and belong to the public, so I’d at least hope that proceeds were used for the public, not a giveaway as is the case normally in the US, not to pay for some outrageous CEO pay packages like the last two Exxon CEOs.

    Venezuela has a problem with a small minority of elites (who btw are still making out like bandits under Chavez and enjoying the expanding country club scene), who think they’re entitled to run things like Georgey B thinks he does in the US. They’re getting outvoted during the recent elections as you may have noted, which is why Chavez has a very high approval rating (it may change if he tries to remove term limits, but it remains to be seen).

    As usual, Bushies try to tell us that corporate welfare is “capitalism”, and the public ought provide all kind of tax breaks, public incentives, and handouts (aka corporate welfare) to companies like Walmart so they can provide minimum wage jobs and put their employees on state assistance. All the while driving local main street businesses out of business.

    See, you’re missing the point of corporate welfare & the corporate state versus local businesses and entrepreneurs when you talk about private initiative; you know “capitalism” involving “risk”. I would recommend that you try to distinguish the difference between good capitalism and bad capitalism (corporate welfare).

    See, it’s hard to make a case for corporations and those “

  21. You write: “Contradictions cannot be maintained for long in an orderly fashion.”

    Except that the very contradiction you wriet about has, in fact, been maintained for a very long time, and it shows no signs of going away any time soon.

  22. DompierreJust because companies acquiesced to Chavez doesn’t mean there wasn’t a gun on the table. And Chavez’ approval is bought.

    Your concept of Corporate Welfare is a symptom of the system you enjoy. It isn’t the sort of capitalism I would consider “free-market”. When you exchange a system of the free trade of value for value and put in its place the trade of value for influence then you are going to get pork-barrel politics. If it’s ok for Democrats to hand out wage subsidies and retirement benefits to the “workers” then the same rules of pull can be used to justify similar subsidies to benefits to corporations that have similar influence over the Republicans. You don’t get one without the other since it is corporate taxes that pay for both.

    Obviously, as you do seem to realise, those lowest down the order with the least influence – small businesses and entrepreneurs – are going to be the ones unfairly saddled with the bulk of the responsibility to meet all these unearned promises.

    Anyone can inherit a fortune but it takes ability to maintain and extend that fortune. Who cares that the heirs of Sam Walton “inherited” the business. They have dramatically increased the value of that business. Could you have done so? And don’t say, “Ah, but I didn’t have the opportunities they did.” That’s a cop-out excuse. Wealth is so noble a virtue that it doesn’t long serve a person who is too weak and valueless to maintain it.

    And I agree on sports stadiums. The South African government really wants to hold the 2010 world cup. No private investor, hoping for a return on that investment, would spend the ridiculous billions of dollars that our government is spending on stadiums. A subsidy by any government on any investment will always produce less than it cost.

    jjrousseau5 and gdanmitchell … agreed. Maintaining a contradiction is costly and hurts. Welcome to pain.

    just meIf you’re not planning to care about yourself who exactly do you think will? Society? When your child is hungry do you grab the food out of her mouth to feed it to any street child who comes knocking at your door because their need – their hunger – is greater than that of your child?

    If you wouldn’t then don’t make such a foolish – obviously contradictory statement – as “Socialism comes down to caring about your fellow man; Capitalism comes down to caring only about yourself.”

    Consider what happens when I place a high value on myself. When I am hungry I value myself so highly that I will only eat the best food. I care nothing about the value of the person who feeds me only about the value of what I eat. But note what happens. Since I am prepared to eat only the best I wind up supporting – through mutual trade of cash for goods – the best provider of food that meets my values.

    Free-trade is the most virtuous thing you can do since you will only live to the highest value you can achieve and, in so doing, support others who live to that value as well.

  23. Well, I guess I could answer this one of a couple of different ways.

    “But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!” —Otter, Animal House

    I knew Otter. Otter was a friend of mine. And you sir, are no Otter! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And Bro, you got punked! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But I could also answer it this way too.

    The World Cup, as with the Olympics, demonstrates one of the dumbest and most expensive ways to do things. Instead of having one permanent site, it’s endless amount of wasted money every four years in new construction. Montreal just recently paid off their 1976 Olympics. Greece has a lot of Olympic buildings and venues empty and not being used, but they still have the bill to pay. Germany has what I would call the ultimate setup for the World Cup, so why keep building all the time?

    South Africa would have been better off if they had won the bid to host the next Americas Cup instead of the World Cup so they wouldn’t have had to get such a massive influx of capital to build venues and such; that would have been better all the way around for South Africa and Team Shosholoza. Now they’ll have one-use buildings that will probably set empty afterwards (or a lost investment if FIFA decides South Africa isn’t meeting the schedule, and then transfers the games to Germany).

    As far as the US corporate tax rate, the national average for big corps (not family/small/medium) is about 9% as a result of the endless tax legislation since 1981 beginning with the Reagan administration. They’ve shifted the tax burden from the wealthy and the corporations to the middle class and the smaller enterprises.

    But, by no means are large corporations paying a “fair share” of taxes today. Under Bush 43, it’s been estimated that with tax breaks since 2001, they’ve had at least one tax-free year. And then with multinationals, there’s always ways to manipulate overseas profits so they end paying little or no taxes. Perfect example here with The $104 Billion Refund. With IBM, I can vouch for this 100% from personal experience.

    I can also refer you to an excellent book “Perfectly Legal” by David Cay Johnston, a premier expert on the US tax system inside and out.

    Truth be told, the US public is getting fairly fed up with corporations who aren’t pulling their own weight and soaking the public for handouts in the form of tax breaks and giveaways. Local govts are really pissed at the lessons they’ve learned when they gave the breaks for a period of time and then corps pulled up and left at the end of the incentives for greener pastures.

    As far as the Waltons and similar others, there’s a reason as well as history of why this ultimately doesn’t work. It breeds incompetence (an inbreeding of sorts). Even Paris Hilton has made between $10M-$15M on her own outside of her trust fund. No one’s criticizing people because they have money.

    It’s when the system gets rigged too much to one side or the other to help maintain the status quo that the scales start to balance via the public voting one party out and another party in.

    But, this is all cyclical. We’re wrapping up what amounted to the go-go 1920s and are headed back to something akin to the FDR days where the public will back govt regulation on corporations to reconcile the inequities that have built over the past 30 years.

    Ps: South Africa Eh? Is Stellenbosch as interesting as it looks?

  24. I have no idea what your Otter quote is trying to say, so have no comment.

    Stellenbosch is a small university town surrounded by mountains and vineyards. I’ve no idea if that’s the sort of thing you find interesting.

Leave us a reply. All replies are moderated according to our Comment Policy (see "About S&R")

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s